Friday, June 10, 2011

Split Up Queen Cells for Nucs

So all week I've been reading up and watching YouTube videos about making up Nucs from swarm cells, in preparation for me doing it. In all of these videos they make it look so easy.

Based on when I saw the queen cells get capped, they should be born around Sunday. You can see the information in an on-line queen rearing calendar. In case the time may be off a day or so, I decided to make up the queen castle today (Friday).

So after I got the kids up and started getting ready for school, I had about 1/2 hour to go out to the back yard and put together the queen castle. The castle has 3 sections in it, and each section can hold 3 frames. I decided to find a frame of brood, a frame of honey/pollen, and put in a new undrawn frame. Then I was going to feed them sugar water and a pollen patty. I ended up taking one frame of brood from the Pink hive, and two from the Brown hive (the Pink hive was the one which swarmed, so there wasn't an abundance of brood and bees like the Brown hive).

Then I went to the frame which I moved to the nuc, which had a lot of queen cells on it. My intention was going to separate (cut) the queen cells out, leaving plenty of margin around the cells. While this looks easy on YouTube, it was less than easy for me.

The frame on which the queen cells were built was a wired wax foundation, which was quite a few years old. So the queen cells were built in the corners, and were not very distinct. I was as careful as I could be, and I think I did OK. But I was only able to cut out two groupings of cells, and I needed three (one for each of the sections of the queen castle). Plus, the wire in the foundation was causing me problems (the knife couldn't cut it easily), so I had to carefully pull the comb away from the wire.

I could only get two sets of cells cut out in the morning, so I left one section of the queen castle without queen cells for the day (not a problem).

I observed an interesting thing while I was stealing the frame from the Pink hive. I looked through the other frames, because there was one with a good number of queen cells on it that I was leaving for the Pink hive. Well, as I went through the frames looking for a good one with brood to bring to the queen castle, I found another frame with two good looking queen cells on it:

So I decided that the other frame I was originally saving for this hive could go into the 5-frame nuc, and the frame from which I cut out the extra cells (which was in the nuc) I could move to the 3rd chamber of the queen castle. I made that move after I got home from work. Now everyone has cells!

It's too bad I couldn't separate more queen cells. I could probably have made 12 more nucs - on this frame, below, there are probably 8 or 9 cells total tucked away along the bottom edge, on both sides:

I was also surprised this evening how busy the queen castle was, with bees coming and going already:

(the gray box on top just covers jars of sugar water) I would have figured any foragers would have returned to the home hives which are about 20 feet away. I've found that every time I've made nucs in my backyard, the foragers orient to the nuc with no problems right away. Lucky me!

Since pictures don't convey the activity like a video does, here's a video of the queen castle in action. I love videos!

I also swapped out the nuc body of the original nuc I made up. When I opened it up this morning to cut out the cells, there was about 1/8" of water at one end of the nuc! (it has the bottom board permanently attached to the body). I don't know how it got in, except maybe from a rear 3/4" diameter vent. We had a pretty rainy day yesterday, and some of it could have driven into the nuc. That nuc is more of a "commercial" style nuc - no frills.

So I moved the frames into one of the nucs I bought from the beekeeping supply place. This nuc has a screened bottom board (any water will fall right through), plus has a telescoping cover so rain can't drive sideways into the nuc. Here it is:

Now that I've seen the queen castle in action, I noticed a design flaw. If you look at the picture above, you see some gaps in between the gray box and the castle below. These are due to the fact that the queen castle's dimensions are not the same as the gray hive body, and it doesn't sit down correctly. Bees were getting up in the gaps (before I did some adjusting).

I should have started with a deep hive body for the queen castle, but wanted to modify some features (as I had explained earlier). I may re-do the body using a real hive body, and adding the permanent bottom and shims as needed.

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